The Infamous Stringdusters
I am a big tent person when it comes to pondering bluegrass as a genre. Music that sprouts out of the bluegrass base and branches off into new territory is fine with me. But, I also love traditionalists who keep the fires of the first generation burning. As for the so-called “purists” who judge everything by “What Mr. Monroe would have done” and who try and tell other people how to do their art; I have little patience for them. Monroe, after all, dabbled and skylarked multiple versions of his musical vision before Earl Scruggs joined his band in 1945. And as Murphy Henry taught us in her important book, Sally Ann Forester played the accordion for three months next to Scruggs after he became a Blue Grass Boy. Later on, Monroe encouraged many musicians such as Jens Kruger to try and create their own sound. In one interview captured on video, Monroe said he had two other original genres of music in his head that he considered creating, but never did it.
My view is if you let the outlier bands follow their muse, they will eventually come back to the fold to pay tribute to traditional bluegrass. And, that is what the Infamous Stringdusters have done with A Tribute to Bill Monroe.
The recording shoots out of the gate on fire with an upbeat, banjo-driven “My Sweet Blue Eyed Darling.” But like Monroe, the Dusters mix up their tempos, including their slow, sweetly-harmonized vocals on “Sittin’ Alone In The Moonlight.” Thankfully, the band chooses to serve the songs on this seven-cut album, letting Monroe’s genius shine through. Other highlights include the high lonesome sound of “Dark As Night,” the instrumental “Old Dangerfield,” an up-tempo “Toy Heart” and Monroe’s fateful tale of children in harm’s way “The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake.” thestringdusters.com